New Orleans groups, officials condemn Trump's decision to end DACA program


Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

Protests across the country erupted following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has granted U.S. entry to thousands of immigrants who came to the country as minors. The fates of roughly 800,000 young people in the program — which includes 2,000 people in Louisiana — will be left to Congress to decide, as Trump's administration begins to phase out the program in 2018.

New Orleans advocates for immigrants rights plan a protest at Duncan Plaza outside City Hall Sept. 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The demonstration is organized by Spanish-speaking parent advocacy group Nuestra Voz NOLA.

President Barack Obama's 2012 order shielded "Dreamers" who came to the U.S. at age 16 or younger from deportation — provided they met several requirements, including school enrollment and background checks. Approved applicants received a work permit and protection from deportation for up to two years, after which they must renew. Roughly 1.1 million immigrants are eligible for the program, according to Pew.

(DACA recipients are not eligible for federal benefits, including health coverage through the federal marketplace. They also must pay taxes and are not eligible for SNAP benefits.)

In June, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry joined a letter with attorneys general from 10 others states asking for Trump to cut DACA before the groups pressed the issue in court. Landry celebrated Trump's decision.

“I applaud President Trump for phasing out DACA,” Landry said in a Sept. 5 statement. “This executive amnesty was another example of the Obama Administration bypassing Congress to advance its radical agenda.”

In an interview with TIME in 2016, Trump said Dreamers "got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

But in a Sept. 5 statement announcing his decision to end DACA, Trump said he does not "favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents ... But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.” Later, he said he's looking forward to "working w/ D's + R's in Congress to address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country 1st."

Louisiana U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond wrote a series of tweets defending DACA and calling for action to replace the program as it faced the chopping block.

Dreamers are "a vital part of communities across the country [and] I will not stand by as the President threatens their livelihood," Richmond wrote, adding that he plans to "stand with my [House Democrat] colleagues to ensure [Dreamers] have the protections they deserve."

ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman said Trump, "bowing to the demands of Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, decided to rob 800,000 young people of the safety and security they were promised by the government five years ago."

“It’s shameful that our own state attorney general helped orchestrate this cruel and unnecessary attack on hardworking young people who have contributed so much to our communities," Esman said. “Dreamers, like the 2,000 DACA recipients here in Louisiana, are our friends and neighbors. They’ve gotten college degrees, started families, founded companies and even joined the armed forces. Now, because of Trump’s decision to side with the most extreme elements of his party, they will be forced to live in fear in the only home they’ve ever known."

In a lengthy Facebook post, Obama called the decision "cruel" and "wrong" and challenged officials to uphold DACA protections.

"To target these young people is wrong — because they have done nothing wrong," he wrote. "This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people — and who we want to be."
Immigrants rights groups and other human rights organizations warn the decision further marginalizes immigrants already targeted by the Trump administration in the wake of fierce, anti-immigrant statements throughout his campaign.

The decision "stokes the culture of fear that Trump feeds every day with his racist, xenophobic rhetoric," according to a statement from the National Organization for Women. "And it will have real consequences — consequences that go beyond the immediate effects of ending DACA, and harm women. How many young domestic violence victims will be silenced for fear of deportation? What workplace discrimination will young women endure if they are working off the books? How many sexual assaults will occur without consequences for the perpetrator?"

Saket Soni, Executive Director of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice  and National Guestworker Alliance, said Trump's decision continues the administration's white supremacist-centered politics. “DACA was won in the streets by immigrants who put love ahead of fear," Soni said. "We will continue to fight alongside them, against hatred and criminalization, and for the right of all immigrants to remain in the communities they call home.”

With the end of the program in its current form, the Department of Homeland Security will stop taking new applications after today, and all received applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. DACA recipients whose permits are set to expire before March 5, 2018 have until Oct. 5 to renew.

More than 275,000 people are set to lose DACA in 2018 if they're unable to renew. About 7,200 of those recipients have applied for their renewal. In 2019, permits belonging to more than 321,000 people will expire.

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